Sunday, June 18, 2017

Conjugal visit/Trailers

First of all, I do not kiss and tell! I do want to take you inside an actual conjugal visit (aka Trailers) but there's no need to cover your eyes :-). The truth is much more mundane and emotional than anyone could ever imagine. I have to confess that I envisioned a romantic getaway-type scenario. Having no idea of what to expect, I imagined the "place" to be very dark and small, intimate even. In my mind, there would be candlelight and romance.

In order to qualify for a visit (Family Reunion Program) we had to be legally married, check. My husband had to meet certain criteria such as, maintaining a clean discipline record, submitting to drug tests, completion of required programs (check, check and check!), just to name a few. Once all of the paperwork was submitted, we waited. Albany gave the go-ahead and we were given a date. That's when the planning began. There was a list of allowed items (food and personal). The list of NOT allowed items was arbitrary and confusing. Nonetheless, we were just excited for the opportunity being given.

Shopping for the first visit was interesting. I kept having to check the list to make sure the food was the right ounces, type (no black pepper), container (no glass), etc. It was like a scavenger hunt! Matching the menu we created with the ingredients required was no easy feat. The facility only provided salt and pepper, but we needed Adobo, Saz√≥n, and many other cooking staples. God forbid I should forget the butter, how will we make omelettes for breakfast?  You get the idea!

So, with my groceries and clothes/toiletries packed and loaded, I was on my way. As I drove I went over the lists mentally. "Crap, I forgot the cheese, oh, and the ketchup too!" Unscheduled pit stop... "ok, now I'm good!" I arrived at the prison, unloaded my cargo and waited for the officer who would pick me (and all other visitors) up and transport us. We arrived at a small building where we were ID-ed and left all of our possessions to be inspected. Yes, everything; food, toiletries, clothes, unmentionables!! I couldn't even think about some stranger going thru my personal items, it gave me the heebie jeebies. Then we re-boarded the van to be delivered to our loved ones.

The van drove through the prison and I could see men in green uniforms walking to and from places, others were working out... living. It was like Main Street, Freedomtown, USA... missing were women, children and smiles! I found the place fascinating, I also was anxious to see the familiar face of my husband. The van parked in front of a gate that separated the rest of the prison from a grassy, picturesque area; complete with a play area, picnic tables, grills and several modular homes in a row (hence, the name Trailers).

The C.O. (Correctional Officer) honked the horn. The men in wait began to emerge from each trailer. Then I saw 'mine'! Each family was reunited at the gate. I hugged my husband then walked hand in hand towards our temporary home (44 hours to be exact).

My husband opened the door and led me inside. It was nothing like I anticipated. First of all, it was bright! There was a kitchen with a large dining table, a living area with a TV and couches, two bedrooms with full sized beds. The second bedroom had a crib and a foldout bed in it. There were also toys and games available. Walking back into the kitchen I noticed that all of the silverware was hanging on the wall. There was an outline of each item (spoon, fork, butter knife) that hung on a nail, that way we always knew if something was missing. I turned around to see a bulletin board with information on count schedules, cleaning procedures, rules (no going outside after dark, no visiting other trailers), etc.

By the time I had the tour, the phone rang. Our food and luggage was ready to be picked up, so we walked back to the gate and grabbed what I brought. Once back inside, we put away the food, surveyed the items that were allowed in and lamented when we realized some were not. Then we figured out how we'd make due with what we were allowed to have.

Next came getting re-acquainted. I can always hear my husband saying, "you act like you don't know me." Intimacy for me is much more than just physical and coming into this environment was most unusual. I had to let my guard down and allow myself to be vulnerable, trusting, loved, happy... at least for the moment. The remaining hours were spent in the most normal way possible; we cooked, washed dishes, played cards, watched way too much TV, and of course, enjoyed each other's company.

The heartbreak came when it was time to go home. We said our goodbyes and I made my way back to my reality. When I got home it hit me; I was alone again. So I cried, I guess I forgot to put my walls back up. We have had many, many, many visits over the years but the first one was the hardest for me. I have learned to appreciate the moment and move on when it's over. Never to look back and keep facing forward.

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